Intelligence Support to the Special Forces Group:
Time for Change
“If Special Forces looks the same after the war on terrorism, someone will have failed.”
-Major General Geoffrey C. Lambert1
Operations in support of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have demonstrated the need for organizational changes within the Intelligence Battlefield Operating System (IBOS) at the Special Forces (SF) Group level in order to better support the Group Commanders and the needs of the supported battalions in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Fundamental changes in organization, recruiting, retention and training are needed for the SF Group IBOS to evolve in order to better meet the challenges of a new operational environment, and to “Provide Sufficient Intelligence”2 to Special Forces commanders.
Organization: “The organization of SF intelligence assets is according to operational and analytical needs.”3 Experiences in the GWOT show that the operational and analytical needs of the SF Groups have changed and persuasively underscores the fact that the IBOS should change to meet these needs. The first change needed is in the way the IBOS is organized within the Special Forces Group. The current IBOS organization in an SF Group nearly mirrors that of a conventional pre-Transformation Army division wherein the IBOS at the division level is split between the Division G2 section, the Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion, and the unit-level S2 sections. Currently, Special Forces Group MI assets are dispersed between three different levels within the Group, each with different organization, capabilities, priorities, and chains of command. These three levels are the Group S2 section, the Group Military Intelligence Detachment (MID), and the individual battalion S2 sections, as doctrinally outlined in Chapter 3 of FM 3-05.102 (Figure One).
Although integrated by doctrine throughout the Group, each of these IBOS subcomponents in practice are completely independent of the others, with different missions, priorities, and chains of command. While well-intentioned, this current organization has created a redundant and needlessly cumbersome system which has, at times, negatively affected intelligence support to the Group and diluted overall IBOS efficiency.
Maintaining intelligence assets under three different levels of support is not the most effective use of intelligence assets, a fact now recognized in the conventional force. Under the new Unit of Action (UA)/Unit of Employment (UE) concept currently being implemented, the conventional division MI battalion is dissolved and its assets pushed down to the individual UAs. This revolution in MI support recognizes the need to push intelligence systems and personnel down to the lowest level possible, while still retaining an MI package at the headquarters level that is robust enough to provide credible and effective intelligence oversight and direction to the overall intelligence effort in a general support capacity.
The Group S2 “…is the primary staff officer responsible for all aspects of intelligence, CI, and security support in garrison and while deployed,” 4 but under the current Group MTOE, the only MI assets that the Group S2 section controls in garrison include those assets devoted to routine administrative functions such as physical security, passport control, and the Special Security Officer (SSO) duties. The Group MID controls all of the rest of the Group-level MI assets, and the Battalion S2s control MI assets at the battalion level. This creates a situation in which none of the intel assets in the MID or at the battalion level are subordinate to the Group S2 in any way during training and pre-mission preparation. Therefore, although the Group S2 is the staff officer with primary responsibility for the Group IBOS, his ability to influence the overall IBOS is curtailed by the current organization.
FM 2-0, INTELLIGENCE, specifies, “Establishing clean command and support relationships is fundamental in organizing for all operations,”5 but the current command and support relationships are anything but clean. The overwhelming bulk of MI assets in the Group reside in the Group MID, which is subordinate to the Group Support Company (GSC), whereas the Group S2 section is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC). The Group MID controls all of the Special Operations Teams (SOTs) -A and -B (SIGINT and SIGINT support), the SOT-Cs (non-doctrinal term used here to describe HUMINT Collection Teams), and the functions typically associated with the Secure Compartmentalized Intelligence Facility (SCIF), such as the Technical Control and Analysis Element (TCAE) and All-Source Production Section (ASPS). Thus, the MID has oversight of and responsibility for the “tactical” level of MI (SOT-A/-B/-C) as well as the “operational/strategic” level (TCAE, SCIF, and ASPS) MI assets within the Group. What this means in practice is, that all of the personnel and equipment that the Group S2 needs to provide sufficient intelligence to the Group Commander during operations in both garrison and forward-deployed operations all reside in the MID. This is not an efficient organization.
The garrison organization is in stark contrast to the streamlined organization of the Group IBOS when it deploys forward. During combat operations in the GWOT, the SOT-A/-B/-Cs are split out to provide direct support to the individual battalions in their Forward Operating Bases, Advanced Operating Bases, or even to individual Operational Detachments-Alpha (ODAs). Moreover, all of the IBOS Soldiers not attached directly to the battalions fall directly under the Group S2 (Figure Two). Having the associated with the SCIF underneath the Group S2 both in garrison and in a forward operating environment and the SOTA/B/Cs organic to the individual battalions would facilitate teamwork and increase efficiency, but most importantly would transform the IBOS into a “train as you fight” organization.
The intelligence fight is a continuous one; whether deployed forward or in garrison operations, the IBOS provides intelligence support to operations across the Special Forces spectrum. Indeed, “The Intelligence BOS is always engaged in supporting the commander in offensive, defensive, stability, and support operations.”5 Therefore, the IBOS should be configured to provide continuous support by being organized “as you fight.” OEF is a prime example of how the IBOS at the Special Forces Group level must be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to drive operations that bring the Special Forces fight to the enemy.
The 2005/6 Special Forces Group MTOEs repair some of the problems inherent in the current organization by increasing the total number of SOT-As from six to ten, with three SOT-As going to each SF battalion and the tenth SOT-A becoming the Advanced SIGINT Collection Section at the MID level.4 Each Special Forces Group will also pick up a TUAV/Sensor Exploitation Platoon in 2006. The Groups’ IBOS efforts would be further enhanced by the addition of a linguist platoon filled with 09L-MOS Soldiers with language skills representative of their Group’s regional orientation.
SF Groups should also have an MI company, as opposed to the MID currently on the MTOE. An MI company whose commander had traditional command responsibilities to include maintenance, supply, and company-level UCMJ would remove those burdens from the Group Support Company commander. With three SOT-As at each battalion, the SCIF underneath the Group S2, and the MIC retaining control of the Group’s general support intelligence assets, such as the Advanced SIGINT section, UAVs, and 09Ls (when assigned/attached), the Group IBOS is organized optimally to support Special Forces operations. It is not necessary to have battalion level intelligence assets split between the battalion S2 and a battalion-level MI Detachment commander, as has been the case in the past. All IBOS in the battalions should be directly subordinate to the battalion S2. MI Detachments should not exist at the battalion level. If necessary, the battalion-level SOTAs-Bs-Cs can be organized as an MI platoon, with an MI lieutenant as its leader, and all other MI assets at the battalion level assigned to the battalion S2 section.
Closely related to the subject of organization, and also important to the Army-wide intelligence effort, is consistency of doctrine and terms within the Army community. The manuals researched for this article contained different terms for what are essentially the same functions in both the Special Forces Group and the conventional MI community. For example, the terms TCAE and CM&D, both familiar to those versed in SF intelligence doctrine, are antiquated in modern conventional intelligence doctrine, replaced by the terms “ACE” and “CM,” respectively. Intelligence-related SF doctrine should reflect, to the maximum extent possible, the exact same terms and procedures as the conventional force. Figure Three below reflects a possible modernization of the IBOS at the SF Group level, using modern, conventional intelligence terms.
Recruiting: There exists within the Army a large pool of motivated, talented MI Soldiers who want to work in Special Forces. However, there is no screening process to speak of with regard to support troops coming to Group. Assignments of MI Soldiers to Group are made exclusively according to “needs of the Army” by MI Branch. Special Forces has a tremendous reputation throughout the Army in general and within the MI community in particular, and should capitalize on this by conducting an aggressive recruiting campaign focusing on getting the best men and women we possibly can into the Special Forces Groups. The desired endstate is that the best not only come to Special Forces units, but stay here for a prolonged period of time.
A designated utilization tour after a favorable assessment, optimally three years, should be a precondition of service within a Special Forces Group. With the amount of time and money spent to ensure that Special Forces Soldiers are sufficiently competent mentally and physically to perform in an fluid and certain environment, it seems intuitively obvious that that the Soldiers that support them should be equally trained and screened on order to provide the Special Forces with the best support available.
With that in mind, USASFC should initiate some sort of assessment process to screen potential recruits for suitability prior to them coming down on orders to Group. Other Special Operations Forces (SOF) organizations, such as the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, have an extensive and effective assessment process in place that helps screen who they accept into their organizations.
The screening/selection process does not need to be anything complicated. Appendix L of USASFC(A) 350-1 spells out individual certification standards that every Soldier in a Special Forces Group needs to meet, and can be used as a guide to for the creation of an assessment.6 Initially, a prospective recruit’s records should be screened for previous experience and performance, and to ensure the individual has no limiting profiles or a history of UCMJ/discipline issues.
The physical portion of the selection would consist of a standard Army physical fitness test (with a minimum acceptable score of 210 with 70 points in each event); the Combat Water Survival Test (CWST) (pass/fail), and a 12-mile footmarch (with a standard of 12 miles in three hours, with full combat equipment and a 35 pound load).
The final portion of the assessment should be a practical examination of the candidate’s ability to do a specific job within the Group. This may, for example, involve a briefing to the Group Commander or Group S2 for officer and senior NCO candidates, and a face-to-face interview and a hands-on equipment practical with representatives of the Group IBOS for the junior enlisted (Figure Four). This selection process should be run under the purview of the USASFC G2 and can be conducted at the Soldier’s home station, under the direction of USASFC G2 representatives sent to the location on temporary duty for that purpose. Alternately, IBOS representatives from the individual Groups can conduct the assessments on a rotating basis.
Training: Experience in OIF and OEF demonstrates the necessity of training and equipping support Soldiers to levels equitable to that of those they support. Many times, IBOS Soldiers in particular are called upon to supplement or to completely assume the duties of 18-series Soldiers. For example, IBOS Soldiers in the 5th Special Forces Group have been called upon to serve in 18-series-coded positions as Company First Sergeant for a battalion support company, as well as Company Commander for the Group Support Company, both during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Moreover, SOT-As and SOT-Cs are frequently pushed down to the Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) level, and accompany teams on direct action missions. CI/HUMINT personnel and Soldiers assigned to the MI Detachment as part of the Army’s 09L program also directly augment ODAs. These examples illustrate the need for IBOS Soldiers to cross train in areas that are traditionally 18-series-specific.
While the Special Forces Basic Combat Course-Support (SFBCCS)7 is a good start, 18-series-specific training should also be considered as part of the training curriculum for IBOS Soldiers in every Special Forces Group. Training that would benefit IBOS Soldiers includes Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat, Special Operations Target Interdiction Course, and Advanced Special Operations- Level Three. In addition, due to the evolving nature of the support they provide to the ODAs, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape- Level C (high risk) should be incorporated as a standard school for IBOS Soldiers assigned to Special Forces Groups.
In the past, 98Gs assigned to SOT-A teams were allowed to attend Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) and the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), where they were trained as 18E (Special Forces Communications Sergeant). Serious consideration should be given to reinstitute this program, particularly as a re-enlistment incentive. This would give 98Gs, the IBOS Soldiers who arguably work most closely with the ODAs, invaluable training and complete credibility with the ODAs they support. The time it will take to crosstrain 98Gs as 18Es will be offset by repeated assignments to Group over their careers, as well as by increasing the lengths of those tours.
In addition to the training listed above, USASFC should work with applicable agencies to ensure that MOS-specific training such as Counterintelligence, Force Protection and Source Operations (CFSO) and Strategic Debriefer are available at the times and in the number of slots necessary to train the number of MTOE slots allocated for those specialties. Slots to the Strategic Debriefer course have been particularly difficult to come by, resulting in CI Soldiers spending their entire tour in Group without being able to attend the class due to lack of slots. A training plan based on combining MI- and 18-series-specific training cannot fail to result in a better trained, more highly motivated Soldier, as well as improving the credibility of those Soldiers when they interact with those they support. Such training is also closely tied to retention and esprit de corps.
Enlisted Soldiers assigned to Special Operations units have the potential to be awarded the “S” identified added to their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). MI Branch should ensure that Soldiers with the “S” identifier rotate between SOF and non-SOF assignments throughout their careers in order to spread their expertise across the Army’s IBOS.
Retention: Another difficulty the Group IBOS faces is in the area of retention. We frequently lose high-quality IBOS troops to other SOF organizations, promotions, or retirement shortly after they arrive at Group. Before accepting an individual into Group, he or she must understand that there is a minimum commitment of three years as a condition for being assigned to the unit.
A contributing factor to the retention issues within the IBOS involves the experience level of our company-grade officers. Current trends show that the overwhelming majority of MI CPTs who are assigned to Special Forces Groups are coming straight from the advanced course to their very first MI assignment after previously serving in a different branch. Our battalion assistant S2s are all second lieutenants on their first assignments straight out of their basic courses.
In addition to the lack of practical MI experience with these officers, one of the problems with accepting non-branch qualified (NBQ) captains into the Group is the simple fact that to get promoted, they have to get command; to get command, they will have to leave Group since the only command available is the Group MID, which by MTOE is filled by an MI MAJ. Because the captains must leave Group to command, this creates a revolving door effect wherein we get NBQ CPTs straight from the advanced course, who stay a year to 18 months and then have to leave to get into the queue for command, and their backfills are MI CPTs straight from the advanced course, who will shortly have to leave Group for command, and so on.
While we have been very fortunate recently with regard to the quality of our Battalion S2s, we cannot count on that trend to continue. All of the Battalion S2 positions and the Group MID should go to branch qualified captains. Some would argue that with the new MI Detachments opening in each SF battalion, the BQ question is solved. However, with no budget, no property book, no arms room, and no UCMJ authority, and with the battalion MID commander’s immediate rater not being a battalion commander, these positions should not count as “command time,” particularly when compared against the requirements and responsibilities of commands in other units.
The Group S2 job should go to a branch qualified Major. If we continue to send NBQ CPTs to Special Forces Groups, and if company/detachment command remains a requirement for branch qualification, USASFC should consider making all of the headquarters/support company jobs that are coded for 18A captains into 01A (non-branch-specific) assignments to allow for branch qualification within the Group for not only MI officers but other support branches as well. Battalion Assistant S2s should be experienced first lieutenants with at least one previous MI assignment before Group. An excellent way to assure this experience is a “lieutenants to Korea” program much like the one in place at the 75th Ranger Regiment. This would involve a lieutenant favorably assessing as explained above, then being assigned to the Second Infantry Division for a year, with a follow-on assignment to a Special Forces Group. MI Detachments at battalion level should not count as “command” time.
Conclusion: In conclusion, IBOS support to the Special Forces Groups is adequate, but not optimal. Fundamental changes in the areas of organization, recruiting, retention, and training is needed for the IBOS to adapt to the changing operational environment and to best to help guide the IBOS towards fulfilling its full potential. USASFC should seriously consider dissolving the MID at the Group level, implementing an assessment program to screen IBOS Soldiers prior to their assignment to a Special Forces Group, and including IBOS Soldiers in 18-series-specific training that would make them more valuable, relevant, and credible to the ODAs they support.
1 Major General Geoffrey C. Lambert, Commanding General, JFK Special Warfare Center and School, in the May 2004 edition of Special Warfare magazine, page 24.
2 FM 3-05.20, Special Forces Operations, dated June 2001; Special Forces Imperative #11, “Provide Sufficient Intelligence.”
3 FM 3-05.102, Army Special Operations Forces Intelligence, dated July 2001.
4 5th Special Forces Group Modification Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) for 2005 and 2006.
5 FM 2-0, Intelligence, dated May 2004.
6 USASFC(A) Regulation 350-1, Component Training, dated 28 June 2001.
7 SOF Vision 2020 and the Way Ahead, slideshow, 2003.